GRAND CANYON — Family members say that Garret Bonkowski and Jessica Bartz may have stopped at the Grand Canyon on a whim as they started a move from Arizona to Iowa.
Investigators are now trying to determine how the young couple ended up dead at the base of an overlook at the massive national park.
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Their bodies were found below the Trailview 2 Overlook, along West Rim Drive on the South Rim, a news release from the Park Service said. Their vehicle was found in a nearby parking area.
"They were found just below the rim on a social trail Oct. 1," National Park Service spokeswoman Kari Cobb told St. George News in St. George, Utah. "We know they came from the top of the rim, but how or why they fell off of the rim, we don't know."
The couple had not been reported missing, but Bonkowski's mother told Fox 10 in Phoenix that no one knew they were stopping at the Grand Canyon on their way out of town. Jennifer Follis told the news station her son was heading to Iowa with Bartz, who was from the Midwest.
"I said, 'I love you, Garret,' and he said, 'I love you, mom,' we hugged and then they left," Follis said, describing the last time she saw her son.
Follis described her son as a ‘spur-of-the-moment’ type of person who loved nature. She said that may be what led him to the Grand Canyon with Bartz, who was described in a similar way by friend and coworker Sally Liddicoat.
"She was just a joy," Liddicoat, who helped Bartz get a real estate license, told ABC 15 in Phoenix. "Just such a fun personality. Just a nice, nice person."
The couple may have fallen while hiking, but Cobb
that the fact that both were found dead from a fall was unusual. Investigators with the Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch are seeking information from the public on the couple’s activities prior to their deaths.
Bonkowski would likely have been wearing a light blue baseball cap with a black brim and the Pokemon character Charmander on it,
. Anyone who was near the Trailview 2 Overlook on or around Sept. 18 and saw the couple is asked to call or text Park Service investigators at 888-653-0009.
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